Work For All?

On a bizzy Monday, I thought I would re-reun this piece from four years ago with no edits.  I think it’s even more accurate now.

Is technology a net creator or destroyer of jobs? The question is as old as the Industrial Revolution, when workers in mills found themselves put out of work by large industrial looms. In France, they threw their shoes (sabots) into the weaving machines to destroy them – the origin of the term “sabotage”. The protests didn’t stop the machines, however, and the workers had to find something else to do in an ever-changing economy where machines did more and more work.

Today, the pace of technological change is faster than ever, with new gadgets coming into our lives constantly. Automation is also transforming our lives, with new robots and artificial intelligence replacing workers constantly. Are today’s productivity gains tomorrow’s unemployment? Increasingly those who study technology in our lives and the popular media are coming to the conclusion that yes, workers are net losers in the race against tech. And this is not a partisan issue.

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Rail is Dead, Long Live Rail

Governor Newsom has officially ended California’s main high speed rail effort, cutting the project to the small section currently under construction. It’s a sad day for those of us who are supporters of high speed rail across the US for many reasons.

The most important reason to find this announcement upsetting is that it simply had to happen. This line, as conceived, planned, and implemented was dangerously flawed. Moving forward with this as the standard of rail in the US would cripple implementation across the nation.

It’s better off dead.  We’re all better off with it being dead.

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Owing the Future & the Past

This article, a repeat from seven years ago, is actually more relevant today as the federal debt spirals out of control without even a solid crisis to explain it.

Those of you who are regular readers know that one of the basic principles of Barataria is that over the long haul there are very few surprises.  Great empires come and go, economies hum along and then break, and new technologies add sparkle to our lives – but people are still people.  When we take a strong half-step back, far enough for some perspective but not so far back we can’t keep our hands dirty, just about anything starts to make sense.

Today’s piece is a small summary of one small part of a breathtaking interview with Dr. Lacy Hunt of Hoisington Investment Management, conducted by Kate Welling and published by John Mauldin.  The original article is a must read, but it takes hours to read, digest, and re-read.  But there is one part that demands more discussion – and has a killer graph.

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What Next?

With the federal government open again, there’s a little less uncertainty in the economy. Things are back to normal and everyone is happy again. Right?

Unfortunately, the effects of the record shutdown are still hard to predict. As with any economic data, we won’t know until the quarter is over just what happened. We do have a few clues, however, and a few things that we can watch to know just where it’s going.

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Geoeconomics

In a world connecting in new ways, it logically follows that some nations are working with great clarity and unity to make use of these connections for political goals. It is also reasonable that new tools for connecting the methods and message of these tools can be found to increase understanding and transparency for this process.

The book War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft by Robert D. Blackwill is important for many reasons, primarily in how it describes how economics can be used to move forward the political goals of developing nations. It is, however, very dense and at times difficult to follow. It is also, as its title suggests, centered on the Industrial National model of a previous generation.

Thank goodness the most relevant parts of this have been brought forward in a fabulous youtube production that is less of a TED talk and more of a quick graduate class.

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What is “Productivity?”

Nine years ago, January 2010, was the bottom of what I’ve come to call the Managed Depression.  Here is a piece from that time which is still relevant.  At that time, we were awaiting a “recovery” and hoping for productivity gains to get us out of it.  But they didn’t.  And the core issues outlined here remain.

What would make a recovery sustainable?  If you ask an economist, they’d tell you that what makes any economy grow and prosper is, ultimately, what they call “productivity gains”.  That’s the ability to make more with less that allows a people to prosper.  During the 1990s this was given as the reason why interest rates could remain low and we could have one Hell of a party – a sloppy, hazy bender.  We live in the hangover that resulted, but have we really learned how intoxicating this one, simple idea is?

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